Forget 'Cool Britannia'. 'Rule Britannia' will bring in tourists, says Cameron

Exit Cool Britannia, re-enter Rule Britannia. David Cameron has held out the hope of attracting millions of tourists to rebuild the economy by concentrating on Britain's history.

In a break with Labour's policy of promoting the UK as a vibrant, even quirky, inventive modern economy to banish what opinion polls regularly say is seen as a stuffy image abroad, the Prime Minister shifted the country's pitch for visitor pounds towards "heritage".

Instead of drinks parties at Downing Street for pop stars such as Noel Gallagher, he implied, the focus would be on celebrating existing attractions and solving practical problems.

As part of the campaign, the Government is determined to remove some of the obstacles which deter tourists from visiting, including improving the service for issuing visas in key markets such as China and India. Mr Cameron said that ministers were looking at a wide range of issues "from the speed of our broadband to the speed of our railways to the time it takes to clear customs at Heathrow".

Although many Britons head out of the country during the summer holidays to warmer places such as France and Spain, their place is taken by foreign visitors – Britain is the sixth most visited country in the world. Twenty-eight million foreign visitors came to the UK last year to gawp at the Changing of the Guard outside Buckingham Palace, or view their ancestors' artworks in the British Museum and other galleries.

Tourism is worth £115bn a year to the UK economy. But Mr Cameron said it had been neglected. "For too long tourism has been looked down on as a second-class service sector. That's just wrong. Tourism is a fiercely competitive market, requiring skills, talent, enterprise and a government that backs Britain. It's fundamental to the rebuilding and rebalancing of our economy. It's one of the best and fastest ways of generating the jobs we need so badly in this country. And it's absolutely crucial to us making the most of the Olympics and indeed a whole decade of international sport across Britain."

Between 2008 and and 2009, he said, the UK had fallen from sixth to 11th place in the World Economic Forum's travel and tourism competitiveness ratings. He complained: "The last government underplayed our tourist industry. There were eight different ministers with responsibility for tourism in just 13 years. They just didn't get our heritage. They raided the National Lottery, taking money from heritage because it didn't go with their image of 'Cool Britannia'."

Commentators used the phrase "Cool Britannia" to describe the flowering of pop music and art shortly before Labour took power in 1997, but it was especially associated with Tony Blair's courting of pop stars and media figures at a series of No 10 receptions. Ben Bradshaw, shadow Culture Secretary, accused Mr Cameron of ignoring Labour's efforts to promote tourism, such providing free entry to galleries and museums. The British Museum was the UK's most popular attraction last year, with 4.7 million visits.

Tourism bosses – who have been fearful of steep cuts at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport – welcomed the speech. James Berresford, chief executive of VisitEngland, said he was delighted the Prime Minister had "identified the importance of tourism to this country". "Tourism is a hugely important economic driver and is one of but a few sectors that if properly supported can offer real growth potential," he said.

"We particularly welcome the Government's pledge to support the growth of the private sector and its commitment to ensure issues affecting tourism are tackled effectively across government."

Belying the honeyed words are concerns about infrastructure, airport capacity and coherent government. Under Labour the budget of VisitBritain was cut by a fifth and tourism leaders fear further cuts of up to 40 per cent at the Department of Culture Media and Sport. They want extra airport runways in the South-east. More smiles would also help.

The UK is rated 14th out of 50 globally for quality of the welcome. Foreigners view Britons as honest, funny, kind and efficient but – in VisitBritain's words – "in some cases they wish we offered a more exuberant welcome".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

The super-rich now live in their own Elysium - they breathe better air, and eat better food, when they're not making beans on toast for their kids

The super-rich now live in their own Elysium

They breathe better air, eat better food, take better medicine
A generation of dropouts failed by colleges

Dropout generation failed by colleges

£800m a year wasted on students who quit courses before they graduate
Entering civilian life 'can be like going into the jungle' for returning soldiers

Homeless Veterans appeal

Entering civilian life can be like going into the jungle
Sam Taylor-Johnson: Woman on top

Sam Taylor-Johnson: Woman on top

Fifty Shades of Grey director on bringing the hit to the screen
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch